All Blacks: Three changes that will make an immediate impact

By Gregor Paul in Dublin

Jerome Kaino will be quite happy to get back to being Jerome Kaino this week. He'll be equally happy, if not more so, for Brodie Retallick to play the part of Brodie Retallick.

And ideally, the All Blacks would like to cast Sam Whitelock in the role of Sam Whitelock at Aviva Stadium and give their starting side the balance and muscular grunt it didn't have in Chicago.

The All Blacks disappointed in multiple areas of their game in Chicago, but the return of Retallick and Whitelock to the engine room and restoring Kaino to his preferred blindside role, will have a significant and immediate impact.

Those three changes will make the All Blacks a different team. They will see an immediate benefit at the lineout, kick-offs, scrums and cleanouts. Bringing back Retallick gives the All Blacks a damaging middle of the field runner: a 122kg brute who is all elbows and knees when he clatters into defenders one pass off the ruck.

The double benefit of his return is that it will restore Kaino to his natural place - where he can be more effective as a ball carrier and dominant defender.

The third part of the equation, recalling Whitelock, will give the All Blacks yet more height and weight at the core of their pack and one of the best, if not the best, offensive lineout operator in world rugby.

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Not only would the return of Whitelock most likely tidy up the efficiency of the All Blacks' lineout and give them a supply of off the top ball from which they can launch backs moves, it will give them the capacity to attack Ireland's - something they didn't have any success with in Chicago.

But Whitelock remains an if and is by no means certain to be passed fit to play. He trained with the team, but it will be a case of waiting to see how he pulls up the day after.

"You have got to understand there are steps you take with an athlete when he is coming back," said All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster. "Today he had a reasonable load put on him and now we have to wait to see how he responded to that load and that will determine what the next step is - whether he can go full steam on Thursday or whether he doesn't quite make it. But he did what he had to do today."

There is also an intangible benefit to the possible changes that could be made to the starting team. Kaino, asked to start at lock for the first time in his career in Chicago, has been overly harsh on his performance.

He's obviously been doing it tough in the interim, mentally charging himself for a redemption performance in Dublin should he be given the chance to get back into hos favoured No 6 jersey.

"If selected I am looking forward to playing in a familiar position," he said. "I don't really mind sliding into the second row. It is just a matter of me executing my role there. I probably needed to focus on the basics and not the other things I needed to do.

"I tried to be Brodie Retallick and do what he did and he dominates in those areas by doing the basics well. First things first and maybe I overlooked that and thought about it too much.

"We had a reason to play. Ireland, emotionally they were quite strong because of the death of [Anthony] Foley. They respected that. But we also had a bereavement in our All Black family and what me let down was that I was wearing the jersey that guy [Luke Romano] was meant to wear and I didn't really play up to that standard and give it that respect it deserved."

- NZ Herald

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